With nearly 60 museums in the Twin Cities (trailing behind only Chicago and Washington D.C.), this is an ideal spot for lifelong learners. Whether you want to see famous photographs, real human specimens, dinosaur bones or Civil War artifacts, we’ve got fun and educational offerings for all.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
No matter what type of art you’re a fan of, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is a must-stop spot. With a collection boasting more than 83,000 pieces spanning 5,000 years and several continents, it’s no surprise that the museum is one of the largest art educators in Minnesota. Each year more than half a million visitors make their way here to see prints, photographs, paintings, textiles, sculptures and works in other mediums that come from Africa, Asia and the Americas.
Featuring the work of 28 international artists, More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness (opens March 21) addresses how technological change and social upheaval caused former “truths” to be doubted, changing one’s concept of reality. Drawing from the museum’s collection, Strangers in a Strange Land: Photographers’ First Impressions (continuing) showcases famous works like Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother and Philip Jones Griffiths’ Wounded Female Civilian. Collectively, the chosen pieces show how photographers render a sense of culture and place through images, affecting viewer’s impressions. You can also see work from Minnesota artists with David Bowen’s Underwater, an interactive installation based off of digital data from Lake Superior and Brett Smith’s Superimposter, which features scaled models of recognizable movie sets (continuing).
Good to know: Admission is free all day, every day (except Mondays when the museum is closed).
2400 Third Avenue S.
American Swedish Institute
With the Scandinavian culture gaining national notice as of late, there’s never been a better time to visit the American Swedish Institute. A former residence of Swedish immigrants, the institute serves as a place for people to share and learn about the traditions, migrations and arts and crafts of the people. With the addition of the 34,000-square-foot Nelson Cultural Center last summer, the museum now also contains an event center, gallery, reception area, courtyard, terrace, studio craft classroom, new Museum Shop space and a Nordic-inspired café, Fika. Aside from exploring the wealth of heritage inside, visitors will awe over the castle-like structure, which was built in 1908 and holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Learn about those indigenous to the northernmost parts of Europe, including Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia, in Eight Seasons in Sápmi, the Land of the Sámi People (continuing). The Sámi people are known for their traditional crafts, nomadic herding practices and 400-year-old Winter Market in Jokkmokk, Sweden, and this exhibit offers you the rare chance to explore the people through their own work and artifacts, as well as photographs by Birgitte Aarestrup, author of “8 Seasons Above the Arctic Circle: The Sámi of Lapland.”
Don’t miss: Picking up a slöjd (Swedish handcraft) at the Museum Shop, or trying a smörgås (open-faced sandwich) at Fika.
2600 Park Avenue
Science Museum of Minnesota
Known for its interactive traveling exhibits (not to mention 70,000 square feet of exhibition space), here there’s always something new to discover. Dedicated to topics like paleontology, physical science, technology, the human body and the people and culture of the Mississippi River, the museum is also home to a large-format Omnitheater, screening films that relate to the same core subjects. If you have a curious mind, this is where you belong.
Featuring more than 200 real human specimens, BODY WORLDS & The Cycle of Life (continuing) illustrates how the body grows and changes throughout its lifespan. Learn about the long-term impact of diseases, understand the mechanics of artificial supports, see the effects of lifestyle choices and more by looking at whole-body plastinates, individual organs, organ configurations and transparent body slices. Trade in whole bodies for bones at the Dinosaurs and Fossils exhibit, where you can see one of the world’s only four real mounted Triceratops specimens. Here you can learn about what happened when the dinosaurs died out, try to piece together a dinosaur from a fossil and operate a Tyrannosaurus Rex jaw. Right now on the 90-foot domed Omnitheater screen you can catch Tornado Alley (continuing), which takes you on an epic chase through the “severe weather capital of the world,” showing never-before-captured footage.
Don’t miss: The Cell Lab exhibit where you can use real equipment to perform experiments.
120 W. Kellogg Boulevard
St. Paul, MN
Walker Art Center
Dubbed “possibly the best contemporary art museum in the U.S.” by Newsweek, the Walker Art Center has been a spot for modern and contemporary art lovers alike since it started as the Upper Midwest’s first public art gallery in 1927. The museum’s collection focuses on media, performing and visual arts, showcasing a collection that contains more than 11,000 works. During your visit here don’t miss making a stop at the adjacently located Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to see the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry, along with 40 other sculptures.
See what resulted from a collaboration between a choreographer and a Japanese haute couture designer in Dance Works III: Merce Cunningham/Rei Kawakubo (through March 24). This exhibit features costumes, photographs, video interviews and memorabilia from the pairs work for the 1997 dance Scenario, all within a space that echoes the original setting and score. As the Walker’s first group painting show in more than a decade, Painter, Painter (continuing)showcases recent works by approximately 15 artists from the U.S. and Europe, most of who are under the age of 40. Named for the 1938 film, Midnight Party (continuing) digs into various reflections on the world that spawn from dreams, fantasies, meditations and visions. More than 100 artists are featured in this exhibit that contains close to 150 drawings, films, paintings, photographs, prints and sculptures.
Good to know: The museum offers free admission on Thursdays from 5-9 p.m. as well as the first Saturday of each month. Children under 18 free daily.
1750 Hennepin Avenue
Minnesota Children’s Museum
Dig, dance or draw—and learn while you’re at it. The Minnesota Children’s Museum believes play is at the heart of learning and seeks to make it fun for the young and old alike. Parents are welcome to join in and help reinforce their kids’ learning while the young ones crawl, climb and scamper through interactive exhibits that promote development, creativity and imagination.
Take an adventure with Dora and Diego (continuing). Kids will be too busy sliding down the purple planet with Dora and Boots, donning a spacesuit and piloting a ship and helping care for the animals in Diego’s Animal Rescue Center to realize they’re learning problem-solving skills and Spanish vocabulary. Secrets of Circles (continuing) reveals the mystery behind these shapes and how they influence our daily lives. Kids can create circle ripples on a digital table or climb inside a giant tire to witness firsthand how math, science and engineering intersect. The Children’s Museum also has several renowned exhibits open year-round, including Earth World and Habitot.
Don’t miss: Seeing your little star perform hits on stage as they watch themselves light up the big screen in the Our Worlds exhibit.
10 W. Seventh Street
St. Paul, MN
Minnesota History Center
Come learn about the 32nd state at the Minnesota History Center, home of the Minnesota Historical Society’s collections. The museum pieces together artifacts from the past and shows how they have influenced the state as it exists today. Interactive exhibits and fun twists on history means there’s plenty to keep kids entertained as well.
Commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War by visiting the History Center’s Minnesota and the Civil War exhibit (opens March 2). It may come as a surprise that Minnesota—a state that saw no battles on its soil—made significant contributions to the Union effort, including the first Union volunteer (Aaron Greenwald of Anoka) and longest-surviving veteran (bugler Albert Woolson of Duluth), but these are just a couple examples of the state’s accolades. Then Now Wow, the largest exhibit in the museum’s history and designed with kids in mind, presents all of the “wow” moments from Minnesota’s past and present. To hear the stories of those who experienced the Great Depression, WWII and post-war boom, head to the Minnesota’s Greatest Generation exhibit where you can join a Rosie the Riveter style assembly line or watch a recreation of a WWII combat flight.
Good to know: Time your visit right and take advantage of free admission every Tuesday evening (5-8 p.m.)
345 W. Kellogg Boulevard
St. Paul, MN
The Museum of Russian Art
Minneapolis may seem like an unlikely location for a sanctuary for Russian art, but The Museum of Russian Art prides itself on showcasing works rarely seen in the United States. Its location—a Spanish Colonial-style structure that formerly housed the Mayflower Congregational Church—affords the museum the opportunity to continue the traditions of the building it occupies while establishing its own legacy.
Concerning the Spiritual in Russian Art, 1965-2011 (continuing) unites artists from the Soviet and post-Soviet eras by their artistic reactions to government suppression of religious thought. Media as varied as oil on canvas to photography convey the conflict between cultural tolerance and political ideology throughout the era. Curious as to what Russia’s religious landscape looked like prior to the Soviet era? Check out Cast Icons: Preserving Sacred Traditions (continuing). Observe how both official and persecuted churches used these beautiful and remarkably physical icons to express their faith. The exhibit features more than a hundred religious tokens and crosses made from copper alloy and adorned with colorful enamel and gilding.
Don’t miss: The mezzanine provides a prime location to admire the beauty and detail of the building as well as the art housed within it.
5500 Stevens Avenue S.
Mill City Museum
The Washburn A Mill enjoyed a 50-year run as the world’s largest flour producer and stood majestically on the riverbank for decades more until it was ravaged by fire in 1991. Now visitors can ride the eight-story flour tower elevator and see the mill’s history come to life, as well as watch a model mill explode in a replica of the real-life 1878 blast while guided by costumed docents. Who knew flour could be this fun?
But don’t just watch history—taste it! Head to the Baking Lab for Mill City’s Bake-Off Challenge (March 9) to learn about the Pillsbury Bake-Off’s storied 45-year history, sample a winning recipe and put museum staffers on the spot as they attempt to concoct a winning recipe. The test kitchen is back in action on March 24 when the staff pits mix against scratch; let your taste buds decide which brownie is better while learning about the history of baking mixes. While you’re there, be sure to watch “Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat.” Local comedian Kevin Kling narrates a whirlwind look at the city’s history—from its humble beginnings on St. Anthony Falls to the bustling metropolis its become—taking time to examine the quirky history behind the Foshay tower, the vibrancy of Lake Street and more along the way.
Hot tip: Stroll across the Stone Arch Bridge and take in the power of St. Anthony Falls. The Mississippi River’s only waterfall propelled Minneapolis to its status as milling capital of the world from 1880-1930.
704 S. Second Street
Overlooked, Oddball and Off the Beaten Path
The Twin Cities have a plethora of world-class museums to suit any taste, but there’s something to be said for quirky niche museums as well. Here are a few of our favorites:
The Museum of Broadcasting: Try your hand at tuning a radio from the 1920s (it’s not as easy as it sounds), or watch the kids produce their own broadcast in an authentic 1960s-era studio. Besides the fun and games, the museum also houses one of the finest collections of radio, TV and broadcast equipment in the world.
3517 Raleigh Avenue
St. Louis Park, MN
The Schubert Club Museum: Explore the evolution of keyboard instruments, peruse through the manuscript collection of famous musicians’ correspondence, or learn about the storied history of recital performance. Best of all, admission is free.
75 W. Fifth Street
St. Paul, MN
The Bakken Museum: Kids of all ages will enjoy discovering the mysteries of magnetism through hands-on activities or taking a seat at one of Ben Franklin’s electricity parties and finding out how early discoveries in static electricity were made.
3537 Zenith Avenue S.